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Pockets

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

The mid-twenties something man stood next to his dad in the lobby of our church. He looked sparkling,  clean-cut and just a bit self-conscious. If I hadn’t known better, I might have thought he was a soldier home on leave; but that was not the case. His presence there, at that moment in time, was a visible testament to his dad’s unfaltering and unconditional love, commitment and determination to get his son back. The truth of the matter is that he had just returned home after serving almost two and a half years in a Federal facility on a drug charge. As we chatted he remarked to me, “My dad warned me that I was messing up. I didn’t pay any attention to my dad and it got me 29 months in jail”.

I could tell he was becoming emotional. He put his hands in his pockets and looked down and he began to sob. Then he said the strangest thing. These pockets sure feel good! You know in jail you don’t have pockets; it’s amazing what you don’t think about until you don’t have it.”  The young man then removed his glasses and the tears overflowed from his crystal-clear eyes. I hugged him and told him that we all loved him. I don’t think I’ll ever take pockets for granted again.

Something to Think About

John

© 2017 John Gouldener All Rights Reserved

Podcast:   

http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

My journey to wholeness in my free online book  @

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Be Still…

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Over the weekend, I was in line at McDonald’s and the woman’s order in front of me totaled $5.21. She handed the clerk a ten and then said “I’ve got the twenty-one cents”. I pretty much knew what would happen next.  As the clerk stood there holding the ten, the woman began to scrounge around in her purse. She twisted and contorted herself as she dug deeper for the elusive coins. The clerk rolled her eyes. The guy behind me sighed a bit. A little girl toward the back said, “Mommy I’m hungry”. Me —– I just smiled because I knew I had a good story in the making. As the line grew longer the woman started taking stuff out of her bag and placing it on the counter — a mini umbrella, a wad of tissue, a bottle of hand sanitizer, a cell phone and a huge key ring with a picture of a golden retriever.  At this point I remember thinking, “Gee, I wish I had thought to time this search”.  The guy behind me started to pray. At least I heard him say something about God. The stoic clerk looked our way and silently mouthed, “I’m sorry”.  The hungry little girl began to cry. I thanked God that in my old age He has given me some patience and a sense of humor.

The truth is when we go for “fast food” we expect to wait. That is part of the experience. But when it comes to God we expect his train to run on our schedule. Yet, often He keeps us waiting. God is rich in wisdom.  He always has a specific reason for His delays. When I’m waiting on God I’m tempted to help him out a bit.  That always involves some degree of me taking matters into my own hands. My bad — always! “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act”. Psalms 37:7 (NLT) In other words He never needs my help. While waiting on God our sole responsibility is to trust. The longer God takes to give me direction, the more He teaches me.

 

 

Something to think about

© 2017 John Gouldener,  All Rights Reserved

Podcast:   

http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

My journey to wholeness in my free online book  @

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Looking Back

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Well, I just saw my first post-Obama bumper sticker. It has his pic along with this caption: “And you thought I was bad!” Following that car, suddenly I had a flashback to the Jethro Tull hit from the late sixties, “Living in the Past”, in which Jethro longed to return to the peaceful days prior to the Vietnam War.  I thought about me and my buddies from grade school going to the Knickerbocker Theater when tickets were twenty-five cents and popcorn was a nickel. Next, with a tinge of sadness, I remembered the uncomfortable treadmill life that I used to live when I chose to allow my past to dictate my today.

Finally, I recollected the wise words of St. Paul, “… I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”  Philippians 3:13 (NLT)  Recollections are past tense; whereas, reality only occurs in the present which means that today is the only day we can change.

Something to think about

 

 

 

             © 2017 John Gouldener All Rights Reserved

Podcast:   

http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

My journey to wholeness in my free online book  @

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Agai

No Dumbass

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

The other night I was in line at McDonalds behind a woman who placed an order for one burger that had several caveats attached. She first got my attention when she was very wordy with her order. Like she said that it was for her sister and not for herself and on and on. She then griped about the price. The order came out rather quickly. Unfortunately, the woman opened the bag to find that it was not correct. While showing me the burger she said to me, “Look I told her no mayo. She is such a dumbass”.  Since I know the counter person I said, “No she is not a dumbass. She is a hard worker.  Somebody along the line made a mistake, but that does not make her a dumbass any more than you would be a dumbass if you made a mistake. It’s a mistake; that is all.” The woman gave me a strange look, apologized and left with another burger that was correct.

Cathy and Hudson, my grandson, were both proud of me for defending the worker. As I was basking in the warm glow of their adulation I had this thought: Would I have been as vocal had the complainer been 6’4”, 245 pounds with a three-day stubble? I think I would.

Podcast:   

http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

My journey to wholeness in my free online book  @

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

OUCH!

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

I’m at Starbucks drinking a tall decaf with nutmeg. I can get it cheaper and better at McDonalds, but I find the people-watching is still better here, regardless of the price. Here are my observations about some of the folks I’m watching: There is a woman standing outside in a light midst smoking a really long cigarette. It is cold out there and she is coatless.  I think she might be shivering. She looks really anxious; every time she takes a drag, as she exhales, she looks down at the cigarette in her hand.  I think she is checking to see how much longer she will have to stand out in the cold rain enjoying her smoke. It will be a while. She doesn’t look like she is having fun. Once, as she blew smoke out her nose, for just a split second, smoking appealed to me again; I better stop watching her. I don’t get it. Why do people stand shivering in the rain to do something that isn’t good for them? Maybe it is the same reason that I sometimes eat a pound of M&Ms.

Across from me there is a guy reading a newspaper. Actually, he is reading two —- The New York Times and The Tennessean. They aren’t his papers. I see him here often; he just borrows them from the rack. When he is finished he will reassemble and put them back. Is that stealing? I think it is. I wish people didn’t do that. When I buy a paper I want it to be crisp, unwrinkled and flat without that fellow’s crumbs or grease spots. Why do folks do things like that?  I’m sure he doesn’t consider it wrong any more than I do when I speed or gossip a bit. There are a couple of teens on an I Pad; I’ve heard the “F Bomb” twice already. I think that is really tacky. I am tempted to go over and say something. For some reason, I just recalled a day, many years ago, when I let one fly.  OUCH!

You know there is a lot to be learned about ourselves just watching other folks drink coffee.

Something to think about.

John

Podcast:   http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

My journey to wholeness in my free online book  @

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

People Pleaser

Friday, January 13th, 2017

For the first 15 years of my ministry, after a service I could have 50 people say “good job”, but if my wife or a close friend didn’t give me an “atta boy” I wanted to shoot myself. That is the sad truth. Sadly, I lived like that for most of my life. Some of you know the feeling. I hope what I am telling you will help. You are not alone!

For reasons that mostly had their genesis in a child’s imagination,  a guy who had pretty much succeeded at nearly everything I ever tried, other than hitting a golf ball straight, every day of my life until fall of 2005, I secretly felt like an inferior product – a reject or a second. Metaphorically, I equated myself to one of those over-priced “YETI”© products that you can buy for 75% off because it has a huge dent or leaking top. I found that to be a very painful way to live!

The fact of life is many people who are driven to perform and achieve, folks who often stand on the stages of life, are some of the most deeply insecure people on the planet. I find this to be particularly true of people in the helping professions – like ministers and counselors.  If any of what I’ve said hits home with you then believe me when I tell you that you do not have to live that way. Here is something you might want to try. Each day before your feet ever hit the floor ask yourself:  “For whom am I going to live this day?  Am I going to live my life to please people or am I going to live my life to please God?”  If you daily choose people you will pretty much set yourself up to fail, but if you choose God, you will never again be people dependent.

Something to Think About

Podcast:   http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

My journey to wholeness in my free online book  @

Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Easy

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

the-easy-way-or-the-hard-way

With the regularity of the Swallows annual return to Mission San Juan Capistrano, come loads of new folks for the annual New Year’s pilgrimage to the gym. Unfortunately, few will still be working out by spring. This morning at the “Y”, in addition to several new people, I also noticed a new Stairmaster type machine. They are thinking about replacing the older machines with the new type and asked folks to try it out and write their comments down. The first comment card that I read said, “Wow, I like it. It is much easier than the old ones!”   From my experience, as a rule “easy” and “success” are mutually exclusive concepts. Yet “easy” seems to be our chosen default setting.

It is much easier to stay in bed and skip the gym. It is easier to hate than love. It is easier to believe everything you see on the Internet than to seek truth for yourself. It is easier to stay in an addiction than to commit to the program. It is easier to sell drugs than work at McDonalds. It is easier to steal what belongs to someone else. Often, it is easier to lie than to tell the truth. It is easier to make believe that you are prefect than to face your glaring flaws. It is easier to blindside someone than to face them head on. It is easier to play with your cell phone than with your kids. It is easier to pig out than to say “no”.  It is easier to hate than to love. It is easier to continue to smoke than to quit. It is easier to leave God out of the equation of life than to deal with the consequences of including Him. It is easier to give up than continue. It is easier to blame someone  else. It is easier to be more talk than action. It is easier to hold grudges than to forgive. It is easier to badmouth than to praise. It is easier to keep it all than to give some away. It is easier to wallow in pride than to seek forgiveness. It is easier to drive drunk than to call Uber. It is easier to tear down than to build up. It is easier to say the right words than do the right thing. It is easier to dream than to do. It is easier to be stingy than to be generous. It is easier to keep a few man-made rules than really follow Jesus.

Something to think about

Podcast:   http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

Bare Limbs

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

mbhqxiwI took this picture Christmas Day near Nashville, Tennessee, as I lay on a creek bank, with a full stomach, looking up into a cloudless blue sky, thinking about Christmases past.  In my prone position, staring up at the huge oaks and poplars lining the bank, I was taken by the stark beauty of the bare limbs as they reached up to their source of life. Those branches could be a metaphor of my life and the countless times I reached up to God petitioning Him to intervene on my behalf or for loved ones in times of urgent need. It has been my experience that it is only when we strip ourselves naked of pride and self sufficiency that we truly surrender ourselves to our Creator.  It is only then that we wholly depend on our Source of life and His unfailing provision for us.  Looking at those limbs, I realized that while they were all similar, none were just alike.  For the hour so that I spent there listening to the babbling waters, I imagined those limbs as reflections  of  particular times in my life when I did not just pray, but times I begged God to help in periods of utter powerlessness. Here is a sampling of some limbs that I identified:  My dad’s fight with lung cancer, the night my brother was shot and critically wounded, the time in my early business career when I made a really big mistake, the day my nephew drowned, the days in Cathy’s pregnancy with Michael when we feared that there were problems,  the false scare that a young friend had MS, three newborn baby boys of dear friends born with heart problems, my 45 year struggle with my past including a lot of lies, the loss of a church I helped to build and the part I played in that sad story, the time I took Michael to the emergency room with a kidney stone,  the rejection I got a few weeks ago when I reached out after many years, the many times I prayed for the sick and hurting in our churches.

The powerful truth of the naked tree is that the source of the tree’s life will surely cloth those branches with a new blanket of leaves in the spring. The nakedness will last only for a short season.  Likewise, our times of utter powerlessness over life’s events are never permanent, but for a season only. In time God always clothes us in a coat of new hope.  The sun always rises and God always loves without fail.

Something to think about

 

My  journey to wholeness in my free online book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Opening the Box

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

dollarphotoclub_73799158-1024x680During my years as a pastor I would often use the expression “Big G God”. It is one thing to use that term; it is something else to believe that God is big enough to take care of you. Sometimes we tend to see God as a celestial grandfather whose chief attribute, perhaps his only attribute, is love. A danger we have in the church today is that we tend to strip God of his other attributes.  One of his attributes is that he is all-powerful; therefore, he does have the power to take care of you and everybody else. It doesn’t matter who you are or what is going on in your life. God has enough power! But you’ve gotta believe!

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Up until eleven years ago I lived for forty-five years in a shadowy world of shame and self-doubt carrying the deep, dark secret of having been sexually abused. I looked good on the outside, but inside I didn’t feel very good. Whenever my wife asked if anything “like that” had happened to me, I always said “no”. The reason I didn’t tell the truth is pretty simple actually. I could tell you that I was ashamed or that I was embarrassed, feared rejection or was afraid to admit it. All of that was true but the bottom line was I didn’t believe God was big enough to get me through dealing with my past. I didn’t see how it could possibly ever work out for my good. I had God stuffed into a box of my own making — a small box in fact.

Well, I’m happy to be able to tell you that now my inside matches my outside. I’ve opened the box and let God be God and I found out He’s bigger than big. God is huge! I decided to face the secret, tell the truth and trust God to take care of me. He did!  I’ve been blessed to  share my story with many others. My life has never been better. I have experienced personally how awesomely enormous the “big” is in God. My part was to open the box; God did the rest.

Something to Think About

My  journey to wholeness in my free online book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again

Nothing Lasts Forever

Monday, December 12th, 2016


original
As I prepare for the final service, December 18th, of my twenty-seven  year ministry spanning three churches, two of which we helped plant, I find myself surprisingly “un-sad”. Looking back, I have few regrets. From the day in the fall of 1989 when Pastor David Graves offered me my first church job, it has been the journey of a lifetime. Even today, I have a difficult time wrapping my brain around why God chose me. My faith has grown exponentially to the point that most days I am at least in the ballpark of being a fully devoted follower of Christ. I think back on my time at Grace Church and the issue with the hymnal. I was raised Catholic and until a year or so before I went on staff I had never seen a hymnal, much less tried to sing from one. So, for the first six months I was about a half-second behind everybody else. That was a bit awkward since each service I was sitting on the platform without any place to hide. But even that bit of embarrassment makes a cool little story to share.

In 1993 Cathy and I, along with four friends, started Highland Park Church. I have believed in God at least since I was five, but during my twelve years at HPC I was witness to what I believe were several miracles that are unexplainable if I take God out of the equation. The first was the perfect assurance we had that the church would be a huge success even though you could put what we knew about church planting on the head of a pin. From the get-go that was a given and it happened above and beyond our dreams. There was a miracle regarding a horse trailer. The most obvious one was that God pulled some strings allowing us to purchase 66 acres, five miles from downtown for $725,000. A Bank president remarked that was the best property buy in Nashville’s history.

Eleven years ago, I left my position as founding pastor in what was the most painful season of my life.  That period was permeated with a deep sense of sadness that settled into the pores of my soul like a thick August  fog. At first I thought it was about brick and mortar. We had just moved into our brand-new state of the art building, after spending nearly twelve-years as a portable church, meeting in a community center and a high school. I finally realized that my pain had little to do with losing a building. The epicenter of my pain was the loss of treasured relationships. Buildings are replaceable; treasures are not.  After a personal grief that lasted for months, I concluded that nothing lasts forever.  And as painful as that might be, night is always followed by a new day.

I figured that Crossroad Community Church would be HPC 2.2. It was never close as far as size. At first I had a problem accepting that fact, mostly because of my pride. Then one Thanksgiving morning God told me to take care of the folks He had given me and do it as well as I could. I’ve tried to do that. The final miracle is the “Crossroad Miracles Still Happen Grant Program” in which our church will distribute over $600,000 that would have gone into a building. Now, it will go to multiple ministries so that our legacy will live on in the lives of people whom we will never know. We are discovering anew that it is greater to give than receive. God Bless!

My  journey to wholeness in my free online book  @ Part 1 UNSCREWED – Becoming Whole Again